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Frankenstein (1910)

Unrated | | Short, Horror, Sci-Fi | 18 March 1910 (USA)
Frankenstein, a young medical student, trying to create the perfect human being, instead creates a misshapen monster. Made ill by what he has done, Frankenstein is comforted by his fiancée ... See full summary »

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Cast

Uncredited cast:
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Elizabeth (uncredited)
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The Monster (uncredited)
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Frankenstein (uncredited)
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Storyline

Frankenstein, a young medical student, trying to create the perfect human being, instead creates a misshapen monster. Made ill by what he has done, Frankenstein is comforted by his fiancée but on his wedding night he is visited by the monster. A fight ensues but the monster, seeing himself in a mirror, is horrified and runs away. He later returns, entering the new bride's room, and finds her alone. Written by Doug Sederberg <vornoff@sonic.net>

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Short | Horror | Sci-Fi

Certificate:

Unrated

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18 March 1910 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Frankenštajn  »

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1.33 : 1
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Trivia

Since its original release, the film had been listed as missing; no copies of the film were known to exist. An original nitrate print finally turned up in Wisconsin in the mid-1970s. See more »

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Featured in Time of the Robots (2012) See more »

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User Reviews

 
The Dawn of a Genre...
5 April 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Produced by Thomas Edison's very own Edison Studios, J. Searle Dawley's 'Frankenstein' has been widely considered the first American horror film. Thought to be lost up until the 1970s when it was recovered from the infamous Alois Dettlaff's private collection, 'Frankenstein' has slowly established itself as one of the greatest silent shorts within the early horror genre.

The story quickly progresses, beginning with a scene of Frankenstein (Augustus Phillips) leaving his fiancée Elizabeth (Mary Fuller) to attend college. Some two years later, Frankenstein learns "the secret of life" whilst working in his study one day. He immediately writes a letter to his fiancée, telling her his intentions of creating the perfect human being. Frankenstein proceeds to perform the now-famous experiment and The Monster (played by the wonderful Charles Ogle) is born. The Monster takes shape in a giant vat, located in a sealed off room which is viewed by Frankenstein through a single viewing window. As the once lifeless monster rises from the vat, Frankenstein becomes terrified of his seemingly ghastly creation. The Monster quickly breaks out of the barricaded room and into the laboratory. After a close encounter with The Monster; Frankenstein makes the decision to return home to Elizabeth. As Frankenstein and Elizabeth's wedding begins, they become aware that The Monster has followed Frankenstein back home and a night of horror ensues.

Our beloved genre's debut is filmed in the non-moving camera fashion typical of early 1900s films, inherently giving the impression of a stage play. The plot of this little short does not closely follow the plot of Shelley's novel, nor does it reflect that of the later Universal version, but none the less a startlingly unique and entertaining outcome it is. The photography is excellent and does well to continuously and tactfully reflect the mood being established. As seen in (most notably) John Barrymore's version of 'Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde' (1920) many of the laboratory scenes were shot using a brown tint whereas in the later part of the film, when the dark or horrific happenings begin to occur, a blue tint is used. Charles Ogle's take on The Monster is strikingly innovative and original, especially when compared to Boris Karloff's familiar 1931 portrayal. The makeup is excellent and apparently was applied by Charles Ogle himself (Ala Lon Chaney, eh?). The long fingernails, hunched back, and distorted face give Ogle's Monster quite a threatening aura as do his various facial contortions and arm-movements. Ogle's Monster is one fit for the ages and has become something of an icon of early horror cinema. Augustus Phillips does an excellent job portraying Frankenstein, with a broad range of emotions throughout the film and Mary Fuller proves to be a superb actress, playing the "damsel in distress" role superbly. One of the many qualities which stand out in Dawley's take on the tale was not only the innovative portrayal of The Monster, but the ending sequence. The defeat of The Monster is far more psychological and fantastic rather than scientific, which one wouldn't expect of a movie based around scientific advancements. Furthermore, beneath the surface of this incredible little short lies a premeditated philosophical meaning, one that is quite reminiscent of R.L. Stevenson's familiar tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Essentially, the film emphasizes the dual nature of man and his urge to unleash his inner-self. The Monster essentially represents the evil and unforgivable aspects of Frankenstein's persona. The mysterious ending sequence stresses this insightful use of symbolism. The outcome is a beautifully shot film, with convincing actors, innovative effects (for the time), excellent makeup, and a substantially intelligent and charming finale.

The very deepest roots of horror can be found in this little 16 minute gem. From the terrified look on Frankenstein's face when the first monster in U.S. cinema history comes to life, to the last moments of footage, the film leaves one captivated in its grasp. Myself being a long-time fan of the genre, thought it crucial to finally track this window into the past down. It is bewildering to look at this little atmospheric and strikingly intelligent take on Shelley's novel and to then look where the genre has come, with modern classics such as 'The Shining', 'Psycho (1960)', and 'Rosemary's Baby'. Edison Studios produced a true gem of early cinema - and the beginning of an epic genre… and what an excellent beginning it is.


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